The issue of war and peace in Muslim Mindanao has a complex and intricate history, marked by political, social, and economic challenges, often accompanied by violence and conflict. Understanding the current state of the United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP) requires a deep dive into the socio-political landscape of Mindanao, specifically the Bangsamoro region.
According to the thought-provoking article of Patricio Abinales, a professor at the School for Pacific and Asian Studies in the University of Hawaii–Manoa, entitled "War and Peace in Muslim Mindanao: Critiquing the Orthodoxy," he challenges the prevailing orthodox viewpoints on this issue. It is important to consider various factors that contribute to the conflicts in Muslim Mindanao, such as historical grievances, religious tensions, political marginalization, economic disparities, and external influences. He also delves into the impact of government strategies employed to promote peace and stability in the Bangsamoro region. Development initiatives, peace agreements, and interventions by international and local actors have significantly influenced the political landscape in the region.
He also highlights the major reason behind the ongoing struggle to achieve lasting peace in Mindanao, which lies in the way Manila perceives the Bangsamoro. This perception, shared by various social and political groups, oversimplifies the complex history of Muslim Mindanao, ignoring its nuanced aspects. Thus, Abinales challenges the prevailing belief that the Philippine state holds all the power and control, arguing that it has been exaggerated. He also emphasizes the influence and authority of local Muslim elites or clans, specifically powerful clans from strong traditional families. These clans play a significant role in the ongoing war and the efforts towards peace in the region.
Clan rule has been the dominant form of social and political order in the region, with political families waiting for the transition period and the post-2025 scenarios like the Exit Agreement of the Peace Process. According to the International Crisis Group, “these clans have historically provided support to the population during times of civil war, but their patronage networks have also perpetuated elites and fueled violence. Clan leaders have used political office and control of militias to strengthen their position and that of their relatives.”
The UBJP needs to manage and form alliances with these clans in order to remain in power and maintain stability. They should also take steps that should limit the power of elite clans and address clan feuds or “Rido”. They must at least find a common ground to work hand in hand with Muslim elites or political clans in order to maintain cohesion and prevent violence.
Overall, UBJP should reach out to clan leaders, particularly in the upcoming 2025 elections, and identify potential allies among them. They should cooperate with the clans on certain structural changes, starting with less controversial policies such as conflict resolution mechanisms, before addressing long-term goals like anti-political dynasties, fighting corruption and promoting participatory politics. Maintaining security is vital in the region, with the need for flexibility and balance between competing clan interests.
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